In their final go around at Hohokam Park, the Cubs brought along some of their best prospects to spring training.
They ranged from guys who are more MLB ready like Arodys Vizcaino and Brett Jackson to players who will be spending more time in the minors such as Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.
Some had disappointing springs while others made observers take notice.
The following is a review of how well the top five of the Cubs’ top-10 best prospects did at spring training.
Simply put, Matt Szczur had a rough spring.
In his 10 games, Szczur did not fare as well as some of his comparable counterparts had in spring competition.
Before being optioned to Double-A Tennessee—along with Christian Villanueva and Robert Whitenack—Matt managed to go 1-for-16 in those 10 games giving him a .063 average while striking out eight times.
Szczur had a forgetful performance in the Cactus League but spring training was not a total wash. It allowed him to continue receiving the type of quality baseball instruction he received during the Arizona Fall League.
It was also Szczur's first MLB spring training and he is still young—albeit two years older than Javier Baez—and still in the midst of making the full transition from football and baseball to just baseball.
Szczur’s spring numbers should be expected of a player who in the previous year played most of the season in High-A ball.
It may take longer for Matt Szczur to reach the MLB than, say, Javier Baez or Jorge Soler.
But, he’ll get there.
There are two things that Cubs fans remember from Brett Jackson’s call up last season.
First, him making an amazing catch before a mid-air face-plant into the center field fencing at Pittsburgh.
Second, his inability to make contact with the ball.
Oddly enough, though, Jackson was able to regularly get on base during his 2012 call-up.
His ability to get on base showed that his pitch selection was not the major contributing factor in his struggles at the plate. So in the offseason, Jackson met with manager Dale Sveum, hitting coach James Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rob Deer to revamp his swing.
And the results?
Jackson has demonstrated his new swing could prove be the answer to his batter's box woes by batting .313 in Cactus League play with a .458 OBP.
If he can continue the success he has found in his new swing when he begins the season with the Iowa Cubs, he could see his first 2013 call-up occur much earlier in the season than his 2012 one.
Arodys Vizcaino has not thrown this spring as he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He has thrown some bullpen sessions but nothing in competitive play.
It is likely that he will bypass Triple-A altogether in 2013 and throw his first pitch of the season with the Cubs.
As impressive as Jorge Soler was early in spring training, he struggled equally before being optioned to Daytona.
In 39 Cactus League plate appearances, Soler struck out 13 times—finishing spring training going 2-for-20.
But, Soler is an incredible talent still in need of some refining and experience.
In 2012, he played in just 34 games and prior to signing with the Cubs he hadn’t played much at all in recent years.
“We’re talking about a kid who didn’t play a game between the 2010 World Junior Championships and his debut in the Cubs’ system last summer, a gap of approximately two years.”
Considering that spring training was his first taste of the big leagues after a mere 34 low-level minor league games in 2012—nothing else the two years prior—you’d have to say his spring went fairly well.
What needs to be said?
He set the Cubs’ spring training on fire before being sent down to minor league spring training.
You thought the Cubs were moving from Hohokam Park because they wanted better facilities? Nope, they had to move after Baez set the place ablaze.
He was inarguably the best prospect in spring training. In 17 appearances, Baez had a stat line of .298/.313/.596 with four home runs and 10 RBI.
He did strikeout 12 times, but he created so much buzz at spring training that entomologists thought Arizona was being invaded by bees.
Last year, Javy split time between Low-A and High-A ball—spending the majority of 2012 with Peoria before struggling when promoted to Daytona
The Single-A prospect he came into spring training playing like an All-Star veteran.
His ability to match the competition—when the levels he has played at have such disparity—is what led me to declare Javier Baez will be on the Cubs’ 2014 Opening Day roster.